If you are convicted at trial during a criminal case, it can be devastating. You doubtless hired seemingly competent legal counsel who worked hard for you, but at the end of the day, the jury still ruled in the way the prosecutor wanted. Depending on what you are convicted of, you may be facing serious life repercussions. However, not all is lost if you are found guilty in a trial court. You can still appeal your case and try to fix something you think went wrong.
When you appeal a case, you need “grounds” to do so. That means you need to state what you think went wrong with your case. Some common grounds for appealing cases in Pennsylvania include letting in tainted or illegal evidence, incorrect decisions by the judge, and poor legal representation.
For help with your criminal appeal needs, call our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys from The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.
What is an Appeal in Pennsylvania?
An appeal is the process by which you get a legal “do-over” for your case. When you file an appeal, you allege that something went wrong in the legal process, which resulted in the wrong legal outcome.
That being said, an appeal is not a “cheat code” to get around a ruling. There are some strict rules about appealing a case. First, you must file a notice of appeal with the court within 30 days of your sentencing, so you have to find an error and decide to appeal your case in rapid succession while emotions may still be raw from the verdict. Second, you can only fix legal errors. These errors are things that judges and lawyers make. Factual findings from the jury cannot be appealed.
Accordingly, you need to find “grounds” to appeal your case, which is something our Pennsylvania criminal appeals lawyers can help you out with.
Grounds for Appealing a Case in Pennsylvania
When you appeal a case, you state the “grounds,” or basis, on which you are appealing. There can be multiple grounds for an appeal, but you only need one. That being said, it is often a good idea to appeal on as many grounds as possible in order to maximize your chances of success. Some grounds on which you can appeal your case are:
Evidentiary errors are a common reason for appeals. There are rules about what evidence can and cannot be let into a case at trial.
All evidence shown in court must be relevant to the case. For example, in a robbery case, all evidence must be relevant to the robbery. If the court allows the jury to see, say, evidence that the defendant has drug addiction issues, that could prejudice the jury even though it has nothing to do with the crime of robbery.
Illegally obtained evidence cannot be shown at trial. For example, any evidence obtained from a warrantless search without probable cause should not be allowed to be shown to the jury and should be “suppressed” by the judge. If a judge decides to let that evidence be shown anyway, you can appeal and allege that the decision to show that evidence was an error that changed the outcome of the case.
In law, “hearsay” refers to statements made by someone out of court to prove the content of that statement was true. Generally, hearsay is not admissible, but there are many hearsay exceptions – and exceptions to those exceptions. If our attorneys identify incorrect hearsay rulings in your case, you can appeal on those grounds.
Scientific Evidence and Experts
Proper rulings on when to allow expert testimony and scientific evidence are often important issues in a legal case. If your experts were denied or the scientific evidence they presented was denied because of mistakes in the judge’s rulings, you could be entitled to a new trial with these experts and pieces of evidence after a successful appeal.
Improper Jury Instructions
When a jury decides something, they are given pre-made instructions to help them understand the law relevant to their decision. Jury instructions are actually a very important part of a trial because different instructions can lead to wildly different outcomes for the same set of facts. Accordingly, if you think that the jury got the wrong instructions in your case, you can raise that issue on appeal.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Another reason to appeal a case is because of ineffective assistance of counsel. To appeal a case for this reason, you need to establish that your attorney did not meet the standards of a competent legal professional when working on your case and that your attorney’s incompetence actually caused your case to end poorly for you. So, if your attorney was bad but did nothing to alter the outcome of the case, this appeal will fail.
Let’s face it: prosecutors can sometimes be overzealous. Many get into the profession out of a strong desire to see justice done, better their community, and help people. However, sometimes prosecutors can get a little too zealous when pursuing a case, to the point that it starts to go against due process and constitutional rights. If a prosecutor’s aggressiveness rises to the level of prosecutorial misconduct, you can appeal based on that issue. It could be entirely possible that the jury was intimidated by a prosecutor vehemently arguing their point and simply kowtowed to what they wanted.
Prosecutorial misconduct includes more than just getting angry in the courtroom. For example, if a prosecutor hides evidence that they know hurts their case or even exonerates you, it can seriously sway the results of a trial and is certainly something that should be raised on appeal.
What if My Appeal Fails in Pennsylvania?
If you lose on appeal, there are some limited options still available to you. Essentially, you have to take the case to a higher court. Depending on the jurisdiction of your case, a subsequent appeal will go to up the ranks of state courts, ending at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court or up the ranks of the federal court system to the U.S. Supreme Court. Erors by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are sometimes appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as well, but t U.S. Supreme Court only hears an extremely limited number of cases a year. It is not likely that yours will be accepted.
Keep in mind that appealing a case to any court can extend the legal process for years, and it is entirely possible that an appeal is denied. That being said, our criminal defense lawyers would be more than ready to assist you if you need to keep a case in the system to get the outcome you deserve under the law.
Speak to a Pennsylvania criminal Appeals Attorney Right Away
Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 and have a chat with our Pennsylvania criminal appeals attorney team today.